Thursday, 5 September 2019

How to make friends at uni - Holly's Declassified Uni Survival Guide

Hello, hello and welcome to the third post in my back to uni series, 'Holly's Declassified Uni Survival Guide'. In a University full of freshers flu, last-minute assignments and the occasional hangover, Holly Smith, that's me, and well it's just me, try to do the impossible, create a guide that will help you survive university.  

Today's post is all about making friends. Going off to Uni can be really daunting (for I would say 99% of people) and I know one of those major areas of anxiety can be the thought of making new friends. You're in a whole new place (often miles and miles from home), in a completely new situation with, for most people, nobody you know and it is scary! So I am here today to give you some practical advice to ease your worries and help guide you through the madness that is freshers.

1. Get involved
This is a pretty vague statement but it is vague for a reason. There are so so SO many ways to get involved at uni which is great because it means you will almost definitely find something for you. You could join a society (there is a society for everything!), volunteer, get involved in your course, join a sport or get involved in one of the many other ways! Push yourself out of your comfort zone and see what your uni can offer for you.

2. Take charge
One of the easiest ways to make friends is to take charge and make plans. You will meet so many people during your time at uni, especially in those first few weeks. If you meet someone you click with, arrange to hang out! It could be grabbing a coffee, going out or even just attending a fresher event. It can be a little daunting to initiate the first interaction but somebody has got to do it and especially in those first few weeks people are dying to make friends and will likely be glad you asked!

3. Be realistic
Realistically, making friends takes time. While freshers can act as a bit of a catalyst, it still takes time before you have people you can truly consider a friend. Meet lots of people and get to know them but don't get worried when you feel you haven't made good friends yet. Things like this take time and making sure you go in with realistic expectations will ensure you don't get dishearted when things don't go perfectly (spoiler alert- there is no perfect!!). Enjoy the process and relax.

4. Don't try too hard
When you find yourself alone, you start to feel pretty desperate to friends. This is fine and totally makes sense because hello who likes to be alone? That being said, if you're stressing about it and trying too hard, things can backfire. Not only can trying too hard lead you to trying to change yourself in order to be liked but also it might mean you miss out on some even better friends. Let me explain. Particularly with university, it can be easy to cling to the first people you meet. Now it's great if you gel with those people straight away, but try not to limit yourself to those people exclusively. If you find you just don't click with someone, realise that you don't have to be friends with everyone, let it go and try to find some people more your type.

5. Be yourself
I would argue that the single most important piece of advice about making friends is this - possibly the most cliche advice going, but it is cliche for a reason! I have found myself in the situation before where I was so desperate to be liked that I started acting like (what I thought) someone they would like would act like. I felt disconnected, unhappy and ultimately alone. As soon as I let go of this concept of who I was meant to be and just accepted myself for who I am, I found I connected with people easier, I was happier and ultimately I made friends! The funniest part of that story is that actually, those people liked me just as much when I was really being myself, if not better because we connected so much better.

There we have my 5 top tips for making friends at uni. If you're about to head off to uni (or college as they say in the US of A) then just remember to be yourself, be kind and you will find your tribe.


Sunday, 1 September 2019

August Roundup 2019.

How is it the end of summer already? This summer has flown by but I actually feel really ready for autumn. I think with our English summer you can often feel like you've been cheated for a summer and while it still hasn't been ideal, I really feel like we had a few really good summer weeks and it has been incredible. 

I used to blog about all sorts of things I was up to in my life and I love reading back on those so I really wanted to try and incorporate some more of this in my blog, such as doing monthly roundups, such at this one! So here is what I got up to this August...

Back towards the start of the month my mum and I popped over to one of my best friends, Emma, for a gorgeous summer lunch and walk with her Mumma. I absolutely adore them both and always have the best time when we are all together- such a perfect way to start the month!

A little later in August, I went for drinks with two more of my best friends, Angelique and Becky, in Bath. These days with our ever conflicting schedules we rarely get time together all three of us together and so this was amazing to catch up. I am pretty sure I spent the whole evening laughing. 

I went for a lovely gin and jazz night with my mum, sister, and aunt. Gin is one of my favourite alcoholic drinks, especially in summer and I've really been loving jazz lately so this was such a dreamy evening. Live jazz is incredible and creates such an amazing vibe!

I had to pop back up to Notts to complete some exams I missed and my lovely friend (Becky  - I mentioned her earlier) came to keep me company. It was so much fun and totally made having to do exams worth it. I took her to my favourite spots, we drank coffee and cocktails, took a trip to the arboretum and made the most of the 'beach' in the city centre - I love all the things they have going on in market square throughout the year! Such a fun trip!

Finally, to bring out summer to a close, we took a quick trip to the Cotswolds as a family. We had perfect weather and spent our time fishing (or trying to at least), swimming and going to the water park/lake. It was such a fun little trip!

So that was my August, in highlights anyway. Not pictured is the stress of exams causing huge stress breakouts and anxiety, bad days and illness. Peaks and valleys my friends! I can't wait to see what next month holds as I move into my seconds year uni house- so exciting! 

Speak soon,


Thursday, 29 August 2019

Fresher Advice - Holly's Declassified Uni Survival Guide

Welcome to the second post in my back to uni series, 'Holly's Declassified Uni Survival Guide'. In a University full of freshers flu, last-minute assignments and the occasional hangover, Holly Smith, that's me, and well it's just me, try to do the impossible, create a guide that will help you survive university.  
(Writing that gave me major nostalgia over my childhood- what a programme!!) 

Anyway, I will try keep my usual waffle to a minimum and jump straight into the post. Today's post is all about freshers advice and things I wish I had known going into first year. University is just a roller coaster and first year can be a huge adjustment so I am here to impart some wisdom and hopefully make things as easy as possible for you, from friends to adulting. Let's get to it!

1. Don't just stick to the first people you meet.
Those first few days can be pretty overwhelming and it is so easy to cling to the first people you meet, typically your flat mate. Now while you may end up having the best flat mates ever, I think it is important to make sure you're not limiting yourself to such a small circle. Meet as many people as you can and eventually you will find your tribe. Hopefully you'll end up with a wide group of friends for all those different parts of your life. 

2. Be the plan instigator.
It is all too easy to sit there and hope somebody asks you to hang out, but I totally recommend being proactive about it. If you meet someone you click with, try arrange a plan. This is how real friendships are formed and especially during those first few weeks, keeping busy is ideal, so even if it is a little intimidating, give it a go! You could go for coffee, attend a uni event (there will be loads going on) or even just have a little movie night.

3. Don't buy everything on your reading list.
I know this can be very course dependent but typically, you don't read everything on the reading list, especially if it involves suggested wider reading. My advice is to wait until first week where they usually say if you must buy any specific text book. Also, your uni library will likely have any books you need so be sure to check that out.

4. Actually attend your lectures & seminars.
The cold hard truth is that you will very likely miss at least one, wether that be from illness or prioritising plans, but try not to miss them. Surprisingly it is a lot easier to learn the material (and do well in your exams/ assignments) when you've actually attended. Once you miss one it becomes a lot easier to miss another, and another, so unless you really can't attend (always put your health first of course) then try to turn up.

5. Get independant. 
Going to university is a big change for most people as you find yourself with this new found independance. That being said, it can sometimes feel a little intimating to try and actually be your own person and do things on your own. My advice is to really push yourself to do things on your own. Found a society you'd love to try but none of your friends are interested? Go along for a taster. Want to explore the campus? Go and find your favourite spot. All the socialising is great (it really is) but this is the time to focus on you, so make sure you do!

6. Get involved.
I can say from experience that the times I have enjoyed uni the most is when I get involved. This can mean so many different things and it is all about finding what you want to do. From volunteering to societies to attending an event, there are so many ways to immerse yourself in the university experience (besides partying - although that bit is good fun too) and for me it made a huge difference in my happiness. I recommend doing a little research, attend your freshers fair and find out how you can get involved because it can make your uni experience so much fun!

7. Stay safe (please!).
Not to sound like the mother that I am, but nothing is worth the expense of your safety. This applies to everything really but I included it here but I think it is particularly important during freshers week. For alot of people going to university provides a whole new level of responsibility and it is easy to go crazy with it. If you're drinking, just be aware of your limits and if you experiment with any other things/ substances, just please be as safe as you can. I   have seen people find themselves in not very nice situations, often alone (because you haven't made those friendships yet and some people just are not good people) so take it easy, look after yourself and others and remember you've got a whole year to enjoy. Safety first kids!

8. Register with the medical centre.
Just one more point from mother Holly - register with your uni/ closest medical centre. You might never have to use them (hopefully you won't!) or you might fracture your foot within a month, develop severe migraines and get sent to urgent care with a bad case of the flu (I guess you could say I am a little accident prone). Either way, knowing it's there for you is a relief in those times of need. Plus, it will make your parents happy- just sign up, it takes five minutes. Alright, think that is all my parenting for today.

9. Be realistic and take things for what they are.
My final peice of advice is one of the most important onces. I have seen so many people go into university expecting it to be the best thing of their entrie lives. Then, things don't go as they hoped and it totally ruins their experience. Now often there are more things at play but I am so thankful I was given this advice before I went to uni because it helped me so much. I went into my first year so excited for my course and the experience but I also new it would be difficult at times and people might not always be nice and it might take a while to find your friends and you might hate some days and THAT IS SO OK! Just because things are not perfect, doesn't mean they are not great. Enjoy it all and have your hopes and dreams and things that you want from uni, but just know that its ok if things don't go to plan. Embrace it all and enjoy what you have. Be sure of yourself and don't change for other people. It might be the best, worst and most amazing years if you allow it to be, or maybe it won't. Either way that is totally fine. It is your experience and everybodies is different. Embrace it.

I feel like I go on for ages about all this but I think that covers the main points. Have you started University yet? If you have, would you add any advice to this? Let me know.

If you're about to embark upon the wild ride that is University, I am sending you all the love, hugs and confidence to tackle it face on, just know I have your back. Enjoy it! 


Tuesday, 27 August 2019

University Packing List - Holly's Declassified Uni Survival Guide

While I know school/ college/ university can be a not so happy time for some people, I always got really excited about the back to school prep. Buying new clothes and stationery and getting organised, I love it all. This year I have decided to attempt a little blog series of back to school posts giving all my tips, tricks and advice to prepare us for the new academic year so we can make this the best year yet. I give to you - 'Holly's Declassified Uni Survival Guide'. 

I am a (soon to be) second-year university student at the University of Nottingham, so today I thought I would share my ultimate university packing list that I used last year. Now I should warn you I am quite the over-packer and I am big on creating a comforting space to live in (all about that aesthetic) but I have tried to keep the list as relevant as possible. I lived in an ensuite catered room my first year so this list was designed with that in mind, however, I am sure you can adapt it for your own needs.

With that in mind, I give you the ultimate packing list! Happy packing!


'Dressy' clothes
1 Formal outfit
Casual wear
Fancy dress (optional)
Gym clothes
Winter coat
Hats/scarf/glove (optional)


Accommodation documents
Bank details
Driving license
Insurance documents
National insurance number (UK)
University offer letter
Student loan detail


Medication (prescribed)
First aid kit
Allergy meds
Cold/ flu relief
Hot/cold pack


Games/ Pack of cards


Dictionary (optional) 
Backpack/ Bag
Calculator (optional)
Staple remover
Relevant textbooks (if 100% necessary)
Pins for board
Sticky back labels 
Plastic wallets
Post-it notes
Pencil sharpener 
Binder per subject
Notebook per subject (optional - dependent on study style)
Plain paper 
USB stick
Laptop + bag

BATHROOM (ensuite)

1 large towel
1 medium towel
1 hand towel
Small storage unit for bathroom
2 flannels
Shower basket 
Bath mat
Toothbrush + holder
Hand soap for the sink
Nail stuff
Razor heads


2 pillows
2x duvet sets (including sheet)
Photos/ posters
Laundry bin 
Desk lamp
 Extension cord 
Underbed storage
Anything sentimental

So there we have my ultimate university packing list. I think it is inevitable you will pack somethings you never need and forget some things too, but that is all part of it!

I hope this was helpful and keep your eyes peeled for my next post in my uni guide series- advice for freshers (subscribe so you don't miss it!). Speak soon!

Holly X


                                          Friday, 17 May 2019


                                          Happy Friday my lovelies and welcome to my second post for mental health awareness week! 

                                          The theme for this year's mental health awareness week is 'Body Image - how we think and feel about our bodies' and that's the topic of today's post. In a world of social media, the struggle with body image can be even harder and I think it is so important to create a dialogue where we can share our stories and support each other.

                                          Like most teenagers, I really struggled with body image. I have always been a little curvier than most girls and I didn't understand why all my friends were slimmer than me. I 'blossomed' pretty early and remember hating how big my chest and hips were. I basically spent my entire teenage years trying to hide my body. I wouldn't dare wear anything that showed my figure and based my entire wardrobe around what made me look the slimmest. I distinctly remember going to the pool with my friend once and making a real effort to go from taking off my clothes to jumping in the pool as quickly as possible so nobody would see me in my swimming costume. I must have been about 15 at the time.

                                          At 17 years old I then got chronically ill and spent a significant amount of the next 2 years essentially being bedridden. My body was struggling, I couldn't partake in much physical activity, even going for a walk was a struggle, and my relationship with food was pretty unhealthy too. Over those years I put on a ton of weight. Between the inactivity, poor eating habits and the physical stress of being so unwell, my body was shot. Once I had finished my treatment, it still took about a year before my body began to strengthen more and it wasn't until a year after that (the start of this year), that some of the weight started to come off. However, it was probably this last year that marked a turning point in my relationship with my body. Now I still have some way to go, but I can gladly say that right now, I love my body, despite its many floors. I consciously decide every single day that I love my body and all it does for me. Some days it is hard to love my body, and I just have to say 'today I don't like my body, but I'm still going to love it anyway', and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't, and that is okay. Self-love is work and it's a journey but trust me you will get there.

                                          Over this last year, I have discovered a few little tips and tricks that have helped me strengthen my relationship with my body and thought I would share them in case you want to give them a go. 

                                          1. Have a social media cleanse.
                                          Social media is wonderful and terrible all at once. It's full of inspiration and connection while also constantly filling your mind with the 'highlight reel' of everyone else who is more successful, prettier, happier or whatever other lies it spins. For me, Instagram was an issue as I was constantly looking at these flawless women who looked nothing like me. One day, I decided I'd had enough and I went through and unfollowed anybody whose posts made me unhappy. Guess what? You can do that! It doesn't mean their profile is bad, it just means you're proactively cutting out the negativity in your life. Once you've done this, I'd recommend following some accounts that inspire self-love and acceptance. One of my favourites at the moment is @i_weigh (an incredible movement by Jameela Jamil all about loving yourself and valuing yourself for more than your looks).

                                          2. Prioritise self-care.
                                          Taking time to care for yourself both mentally and physically does wonders for strengthening your relationship with yourself. Personally, some of my favourite ways include doing a face-mask, painting my nails, doing yoga, meditating and doing my hair. It completely depends on you and how you're feeling that day, but taking some time to look after and care for your body really helps you to connect with it. For me, seeing my body as something I have (that I can look after and care for) rather than something I am (and all I am) made a huge difference in how I view and love myself. 

                                          3. Consciously choose gratitude.
                                          Gratitude is immense in helping my mental health and this stems down to self-love. I am pretty sure there have been studies showing just how beneficial gratitude can be and I have definitely felt the effects in my own life too. With regard to accepting my body, once I shifted my mind to a space of gratitude for my body, things really shifted. Now, this was really hard for me at first because I was mad at my body. It had gotten ill and that illness had taken my life away from me at the time, so my body and I were not on speaking terms. However, starting small, I managed to build this up to being well and truly grateful for my body and all it has done for me. If you're just starting out, I would recommend just trying, every morning as you're getting ready for the day, to look in the mirror and tell yourself 3 things you are grateful for about your body (bonus points if you can do this naked- yet it feels weird but weirdly empowering). It can be anything big or small, but I personally find it's better to try and avoid surface level things (such as 'I am so grateful for my legs because they are so slim') because you want to try and distance your relationship with your body from that sense of value from looks. 

                                          4. Give yourself some time
                                          My final tip is simply to give yourself some time. Forgive yourself when you slip up and allow yourself some time. No good relationship can be formed overnight and it is no different than your relationship with your body. Keep making those conscious decisions to connect with yourself and over time that relationship will grow and strengthen.

                                          I think the common misconception with self-love is that in order to love your body, it has to be perfect. You have to be the right weight and toned in all the right areas and it has to be healthy and then we can love our body. We will love our body when we look like this/ when I feel like this/ when this has happened. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it doesn't really work like that. Self-love really truly comes from the inside and it takes work and perseverance and persistence. But you know the great thing about that? You can start right now. 

                                          Let's start right this second. Tell me one thing you absolutely love about your body, something you are so grateful for. For me, I really love my legs and I am so grateful for everything they allow me to do. Without them, I couldn't dance or walk around the lake or do yoga. They are not the strongest or slimmest or longest but I love them just as they are.

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